TCM Classic Film Festival (part I)
From April 22 – 25 cable channel Turner Classic Movies presented its first ever “TCM Classic Film Festival” in Hollywood. The festival was four days of classic films on the big screen and included many appearances by the actors and directors who made them. Celebrities introducing their films included Tony Curtis, Eva Marie Saint, Martin Landau, Mel Brooks, Esther Williams, Tab Hunter, John Voight and many others. It was four days of “full contact” movie going with simultaneous screenings starting as early as 9:00 am and going as late as 2:00 am. There were also panel discussions covering different aspects of the art and business of film. Believe me I tried to see all of it.
The screening venues were on Hollywood Boulevard and included the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, one of the country’s few remaining old time movie palaces, best known for its legendary outdoor collection of cement impressions of celebrity hands and feet. Other festival venues included the wonderful Egyptian Theatre and the Mann’s Chinese House multiplex located next to Grauman’s. The festival’s headquarters were in the historic Roosevelt Hotel, also on Hollywood Boulevard and the site of the very first Oscar ceremony. The Roosevelt was where Club TCM, a lounge for festival-goers to meet, relax, have snacks and listen to live music, was set up.
TCM host Robert Osborne maintained a very high profile throughout the four days attaining “rock star” status among the attendees. Osborne was greeted with wildly enthusiastic applause whenever he appeared to introduce a screening and conduct an interview. In addition, Osborne’s friendliness and accessibility made him especially popular with the crowd that included movie fans from all over the United States and Canada.
The festival got underway at Grauman’s with an opening night screening of a beautiful digitally restored and projected screening of the 1954 version of “A Star is Born” starring Judy Garland and James Mason. The long list of celebrity guests at the screening included Eli Wallach, Alec Baldwin and Garland’s children Lorna and Joey Luft. Although this was not the first time “A Star is Born” had been made the story was nicely retrofitted to showcase Garland’s phenomenal singing talent. The film’s musical numbers included “The Man Who Got Away” and the restored “Born in a Trunk” sequence. The musical sequences blended with and enhanced this story of a Hollywood couple where the wife’s star rises while the husband’s sinks into a sea of alcoholism. Garland and Mason both gave powerful performances and the film’s parallels to Garland’s own real life struggles with addiction made the story all the more poignant.
The festival’s climax was a closing night screening of a digitally restored and projected screening of Fritz Lang’s 1927 seminal masterpiece “Metropolis, ” also at Grauman’s. The restored picture was an amazing technical achievement that made most of the film look brand new. Sections from the film long thought lost had only recently been found and restored making this screening the most complete version of “Metropolis” since its 1927 Berlin premiere. The silent masterpiece was presented with a live score performed by the Alloy Orchestra. The three musicians’ use of drums and metallic instruments for music and sound effects enhanced this story of abused workers and made it sound as if a full orchestra was playing. When the film ended and the musicians took a bow the packed house of 1,100 festival goers was on its feet applauding and screaming. It was quite a way to end a very enjoyable four days.